Whether you’re a huge fan or you’ve just seen a single episode of Yellowstone, you’re probably already in the thralls of the hit series’ most feisty and ferocious character: Beth Dutton. She’s the eldest daughter of John Dutton (played by Kevin Costner), the patriarch of the Dutton family and owner of the Yellowstone Ranch, one of the largest cattle ranches in Montana.
Love her or hate her, Beth is highly intelligent, fiercely ambitious and known for her sharp wit and cutting remarks. Often seen as the black sheep of the family, she clashes with her father and siblings due to her rebellious nature and non-conformist attitude, while trying to maintain a romantic relationship with the show’s hunky ranch hand Rip (Cole Hauser) as she battles her inner demons.
Through it all, Beth Dutton is also a highly capable businesswoman who handles the financial and political aspects of the ranch. Fans marvel at her master strategies, using her intelligence, cunning and sharp tongue to protect the family’s interests and preserve the legacy of the Yellowstone Ranch. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty—cue drama!—and she engages in ruthless tactics to achieve her goals, including manipulation, blackmail and intimidation.
But there would be no sass-talking, chain-smoking Beth Dutton without 45-year-old actress Kelly Reilly, who has brilliantly brought the character to life. Here we take a fascinating look into Reilly’s past, how she prepared to play Beth Dutton and how she’s different—and similar—to her Yellowstone counterpart. Best of all, Reilly shares what she really thinks of TV’s favorite femme fatale.
Who plays Beth Dutton?
You may recognize Kelly Reilly from roles as diverse as Caroline Bingley in Pride & Prejudice, the thriller Eden Lake, or even alongside Denzel Washington in Flight. But it’s Reilly’s award winning portrayal of Beth Dutton that has brought this English actress worldwide acclaim.
One thing Reilly has in common with Montana rancher Beth Dutton is her first love: It wasn’t being in front of a camera, it was working with horses. Most days after school, you’d find a young Reilly riding and caring for them at a stable nearby in Chessington, England, where her father was a police officer.
“I couldn’t afford a horse, but I kind of adopted one and spent a lot of time with him,” she’s said. And while tending to horses in the English countryside stables is no longer an everyday activity, Reilly now takes advantage of whatever downtime the production of Yellowstone affords her to go horseback riding on location in Montana where her character Beth Dutton lives and the TV series is filmed. “It’s always been where I get my head screwed back on – just being in nature and being on horses,” she told Parade.
How did Kelly Reilly get her start in acting?
At the age of 17, long before she took on the role of Beth Dutton, Reilly got her first break into show business. She made her TV debut opposite Helen Mirren in the British TV series, Prime Suspect. “She was incredibly supportive with a great sense of humor,” Reilly describes Mirren. Reilly secured the role after writing to the producers to ask for any kind of work they could offer. She secured a role in Prime Suspect 4, which aired on British TV in May 1995.
It was around this time when Reilly took Dame Mirren’s advice of experiencing life rather than disappear inside a drama school. So Reilly packed up her bags and moved across the pond to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Periodically over the decades, she would return to London to appear on stage. She eventually received a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 2004 for her work in After Miss Julie. She was the youngest actor to receive this honor and the doors were open wide for Reilly to pursue her love of acting.
How did Kelly Reilly prepare to play Beth Dutton?
Ironically, Reilly wasn’t sure she was capable of pulling off Beth Dutton’s sarcastic, biting, convoluted persona. “It took me a while to really find her,” she expressed in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. “I mean, she’s like stepping into a sports car. It was like how do I go from naught to 100 in three seconds.”
At her first meeting with Yellowstone co-creator Taylor Sheridan, she hadn’t really delved into transforming herself in the Dutton role. Reilly questioned herself after that meeting if she could actually pull it off season after season. “Beth is a tremendously complicated proposition to undertake.”
Yet, Beth Dutton quickly became a fan favorite due to Reilly’s outstanding performances, which can be credited to Reilly’s scrupulous note taking filled with details over the years. These notes refer back to Beth Dutton’s life, challenges and emotional ups and downs so Reilly can keep track and better build on the character.
What’s Kelly Reilly’s most memorable Beth Dutton scene?
Filming Yellowstone hasn’t come without challenges and sometimes-frightening moments on set. During the first season, Reilly shot a scene where she was to run into a wolf pack. The kicker? They weren’t computer generated…they were real wolves. When Reilly realized the animals were the real-life fang-bearing, furry kind, she spoke to the production crew about her hesitation regarding running towards a pack of wild wolves with a bottle of whiskey in her hand, as the scene was written.
“The crew said, don’t worry. We’ve got these invisible pieces of cord so if they do run at you, that will trip them.” Not completely sure this scene was going to go according to plan, Kelly rushed towards those wolves anyway and the memorable scene was shot. Yet despite apprehensions over wolves and if she could actually bring the dynamic Beth Dutton to life, Reilly says she loves working on the Yellowstone series and with each season, her confidence has grown.
Will Kelly Reilly keep playing Beth Dutton?
Reilly admits that part of the reason English actors do an American TV series is because of the security such jobs provide. In this arena, “you know you’re working for ten months of the year, then come home for two, and they have family with them — it’s the closest thing to a regular job,” she told The Scotsman.
Ever since Beth Dutton has become a favorite to TV watchers, Kelly has received many scripts for Beth-type roles. “Obviously I play Beth Dutton and people like it. So I’m inundated with very feisty, strong, violent type women,” she has said. “But I don’t want to play that again,” she told Looper. Reilly’s rule to her acting career is not to choose the same role twice. That could leave some actresses apprehensive over what their next job would be, but not to Reilly. “I never really know what that next [character or script] is until I read it.”
Is Reilly anything like Beth Dutton in real-life?
Unlike Beth Dutton and Rip Wheeler’s tumultuous romance, one role that is not ambiguous for Reilly is spending time with her husband, financier Kyle Baugher. They married in England in 2012 after meeting that same year. At that time, Baugher lived in New York, and Kelly split her time between New York and her native England. Baugher has regularly accompanied Kelly to Montana when filming Yellowstone.
She has spent a lot of time flying between her house in England and New York, and Darby, Montana. While she has spent some time on the London stage when Yellowstone is on hiatus, she admits, “I love Montana, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. It’s somewhere that I’ve spent time when I’ve traveled since I was a teenager actually.”
Reilly cherishes her marital relationship and keeping her family as private a life as possible, despite having one of the most recognizable faces on television. Staying private can be difficult, which is why her homes are in the countryside in England and at the end of the island “by the sea in New York.”
But all-in-all, you won’t find Reilly complaining of the beloved character that bring fans clamoring. “It’s a powerful thing to be part of Yellowstone. People have adopted it as their show. I’m really proud of it.”
Bonnie Siegler is an established international writer covering the celebrity circuit for more than 15 years. Bonnie’s resume includes two books that combine her knowledge of entertaining with celebrity health and fitness and has written travel stories which focus on sustainable living. She has contributed to magazines including Woman’s World and First for Women, Elle, InStyle, Shape, TV Guide and Viva. Bonnie served as West Coast Entertainment Director for Rive Gauche Media overseeing the planning and development of print and digital content. She has also appeared on entertainment news shows Extra and Inside Edition.